I visited Kenya recently, and as usual, I talked to the ordinary mwananchi about issues of interest to me, including corruption.
In my questions, I didn’t differentiate between what some people call petty corruption (i.e., slipping a traffic policeman a few hundred bob to turn the other way and let you off without a fine or a ticket), and what some politicians and activists have baptised grand corruption, the sort involving billions of shillings of taxpayers’ money.
While both are a threat to the nation, many people felt petty corruption would be easy to conquer once the grand type was taken care of.
Popular ideas for tackling grand corruption included what I call making a brutal, ruthlessly aggressive and uncompromising example of a score of cases from across the board.
This would mean successfully prosecuting a few people from the bottom of the corruption ladder, a few from the middle, and a few from the class of those who consider themselves the untouchables. This would include friends, associates and relatives of the country’s top leadership, if they are guilty of graft.
If the nation’s state prosecutors and various anti-corruption agencies are not up to the job, then by all means, hire lawyers from the private sector. I’m certain if they get results, the taxpayers would gladly oblige.
Once completely watertight cases against these criminals, all economic saboteurs, are prosecuted and won, then the guilty should be jailed for 15-20 years without the option of parole.
However, the jail term should not be the end of the story. The state should then seize all the assets of the guilty parties, including bank accounts and properties, especially those linked to their corrupt activities. All such assets should be disposed of at public auction and the money returned to the Treasury and pumped back into the welfare of citizens.
I have no doubt that if such an example were to be made and people saw that there was no sympathy for such criminals and saw that justice was indeed seen to be done, it would take a very desperate or foolhardy individual to resort to corruption on such a grand scale again.
The government would certainly lose friends and backers among the ranks of the shady and corrupt, but it would win the support of a grateful nation that can once again hold it’s head up high in the community of upright nations.